Trainers will be getting their due next month during the Buffalo Veterans Boxers Association Ring 44 Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens.
The Class of 2014 includes instructors of the sweet science from Team DeLeon – brothers Juan, Carlos and Angel – and the late Tony Pinto. Sportswriter, Ring 44 Historian Emeritus and New York State Boxing Hall of Famer Angelo Prospero and middleweight Paulie Mahoney, one of the area’s top professionals during the 1930s and ’40s, also are part of the this year’s class of inductees, who will be honored during the annual dinner ceremony Aug. 8. Doors open at 6 p.m. and dinner will be served at 7 p.m. Three-time world champion Iran Barkley will be the guest speaker. Tickets can be purchased by calling 440-1715 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Team DeLeon was a key component of Team Mesi during Joe Mesi’s unbeaten professional career. Juan DeLeon began training Mesi, the Ring 44 Hall of Famer, as an amateur in 1993. The partnership, which has since turned into a lifelong friendship, included a run at the Olympics (Mesi was an alternate in 1996), fighting before a packed house at then HSBC Arena, wins in Las Vegas and Madison Square Garden in New York City and one final triumph – a first-round knockout over Shannon Miller for the WBC United States Heavyweight title Oct. 12, 2007 in what proved to be Mesi’s last fight.
Mesi isn’t the only boxer the DeLeons trained as they currently are working with Emanuel Colon, a former state Golden Gloves champion.
Juan DeLeon, who lives in Kenmore, also was Mariusz Wach’s trainer when he fought for the world heavyweight title and lost via unanimous decision to Wladimir Klitschko in November 2012.
Juan also was in his brother Carlos’ corner and part of his training camp for a dozen fights during the latter’s reign as world cruiserweight champion during the 1980s.
“This honor means a lot to me, a lot for my family,” Juan DeLeon said via phone from Puerto Rico, where his protege Colon is training for a future fight. “It’s a team” effort.
“The first one who did anything, and I just followed his footsteps, was Carlos. Everything I’ve done in boxing is because of him.”
Pinto spent 30 years in the sport as a fighter and trainer at the amateur and pro levels. He passed away at age 57 from a heart attack. Among the Ring 44 Hall of Fame members he worked with as trainer include Joey Giambra, Vic Brown, Dennis Cudney and Dick Topinko.
Prospero has covered fights for various boxing periodicals, including Ring Magazine, since the 1950s. He served as Ring 44’s historian for 25 years before passing the reins to Bob Caico.
Prospero, who wrote the book “Great Fights and Fighters,” also covered some of the greatest fights during the latter half of the 20th century including Ali-Frazier I, Foreman-Frazier II, Hearns-Leonard I and Hearns-Hagler.
Mahoney went 31-15-1 (14 KOs) during a nine-year career. He wasn’t afraid of a challenge as he took on some of the top fighters of his era, losing 10-round decisions to former middleweight champions Teddy Yarosz and Ken Overlin. Mahoney later moved to Florida and then California, where he died in 1983.